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Thousands of people with incurable medical conditions are being classed as ‘fit to work in the future’ by a “nonsensical” Work Capability Assessment (WCA), new figures reveal.

More than a third of people with debilitating and incurable conditions and are too sick to work, such as Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis, are being placed in the ‘Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) of ESA, even though their condition is certain to worsen over time.

Claimants placed within the WRAG receive less money than those in the higher ‘Support Group’, who are not required to prepare for work or attend Job Centre interviews, and face the threat of sanctions if they fail to comply with strict requirements. Some may have their ESA entitlement removed after only a year as the government attempts to “support people into work”.

The Independent newspaper reports how new research by a coalition of charities reveals that between October 2008 and September last year, 7,800 people with degenerative conditions were placed within the WRAG. The figures reveal that over 3,000 of these people had multiple sclerosis, 800 had Parkinson’s disease and 3,800 suffered from excruciating rheumatoid arthritis. 100 had motor neurone disease and a further 100 suffered from cystic fibrosis.

The figures were obtained through a Freedom of Information request to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) as part of new research by five different charities: Parkinson’s UK, MS Society, Motor Neurone Disease Association, the Cystic Fibrosis Trust and the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society.

Steve Ford, Chief Executive at Parkinson’s UK, said: “These latest figures are an utter disgrace and serve to underline just how little the Government cares for those with progressive conditions like Parkinson’s.

“To set up a system which tells people who’ve had to give up work because of a debilitating, progressive condition that they’ll recover, is humiliating and nothing short of a farce.

“These nonsensical decisions are a prime example of how benefits assessors lack even the most basic levels of understanding of the conditions they are looking at.”

Shockingly, the figures also reveal how seven out of ten people with degenerative conditions claiming ESA were subjected to two or more assessments, even though the likelihood of their condition improving is highly improbable – save for a medical miracle.

Steve Ford said: “There can be no more excuses. Those who are severely unwell should not be subject to the ongoing indignity of repeated assessments.

“The Government must let common sense prevail and ensure that anyone living with a condition that can only get worse is automatically placed in the Support Group, and given the assistance they desperately need.”

Commenting on the findings of the “worrying report”, Shadow Minister for Disabled People Kate Green said “sick and disabled people aren’t being treated with the dignity and respect they deserve under the Tories”.

She added that Labour would reform the WCA and “look carefully at how the system of assessments works for people with degenerative conditions and ensure it treats them fairly.”

A spokesperson for the DWP defended the WCA and the government’s record in “supporting” sick and disabled people into work:

“It’s not fair to write someone off as unable to work if they are at the early stages of a progressive condition – and many people welcome support to prepare for work if they feel able to.

“If the effects of someone’s condition are considered severe enough based on their application and evidence, they will not be required to attend a face-to-face assessment. Our reforms support people into work where they are able, instead of writing them off.”

The government’s record in helping sick and disabled people into work has been brought into question, after the latest DWP figures show that the number of people claiming sickness benefits has risen for the fourth quarter in a row.

The number of people in receipt of ESA, or its predecessor Incapacity Benefit (IB), rose to 2,515,000 in August 2014 – the highest level since August 2012. Numbers increased by 35,000 in the last three months alone. Should this trend continue, there would be more people in receipt of ESA or IB by May 2015 than when the Conservative-led coalition took office – 2.62 million compared to 2.61 million in May 2010.

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photo credit: MTSOfan via photopin cc

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  1. People with MND are expected to work? it is a TERMINAL illness that progresses very rapidly in most cases. How on earth are they going to get better! This government is barbaric the way it is treating people. So now we are sending dying people to work too because how else can the money hungry Con-Dem scum cream the extra cash off for their buddies. This makes me so very angry!

  2. having a chronic variable condition myself. I know this all too well, was in WRAG for 6 years, was finally put in support group this year after mandatory reconsideration (as their own website says I am highly unlikely to recover. The final kick in the teeth is –
    that those who are put in the support group within their first year on ESA, when moved to SG continue on contributions based ESA (ie they get the extra money needed to cope with their condition. Having been in the WRAG for 6 years I was ‘receiving’ income related ESA (in my case NI contributions only),but I remain on Income related ESA so do not receive any extra money to cope with extra costs related to condition (due to my partner being on incapaicity benefit). But this is one way of cutting the benefits bill.
    My advice to anyone with a chronic/degenerative condition -make sure you have all available info to send with your esa50 (including website info of condition), get advice if you fit into the special regulations and if soo get letter from GP. Keep copies of said paperwork. If place in wrag get advice asap, and ask for mandatory reconsideration within the timeframe If you can get moved to the support group early enough those extra pennies will come in handy

    • David, not sure how you got out of the WRAG, i too have a long term condition and have been put into the WRAG but my surgery say they will not write a letter to back up my reasons for asking to be put into the support group, they say i should be in there but also said that DWP wouldnt take anything they put into a letter into consideration anyway, and the people within the mental health system just tell you to go via your Doctor for the letter, so i am stuck with a social anxiety disorder on top of the other issues, which is made worse by the Work focused interviews but have no one who can speak for me to deal with getting moved to the other group because i struggle dealing with people, even finding it difficult to deal with it on the telephone but cant get any help from anyone, so not everyone can get out of this group and made worse because social services in the area i live in say they dont help people with mental health issues.

      • Kim you need to get advice. There are plenty of places available:
        1 Benefits&work – excellent info available but need to subscribe to get the best bit (have a look on Facebook)
        2 Fightback – offer advice via phone and Facebook
        3 CAB – might take a while to organise
        (All the above are benefits specialists but not MH specialists)
        4 Mind does have some benefits advisers who will be able to look at your claim from a mental health perspective.
        5 get as much info of the net related to your condition specifically related to how it tends to affect daily life.
        This advice is only really usable when re/applying and if you’re in the review window after decision.
        I did all of the above and wrote to them myself when asking for a mandatory reconsideration that I felt my condition meant that it would be unsafe for me to take part in work related activity (I didn’t even have to quote the special rules (Black Triangle have these on their site.
        Most Importantly don’t give up and let the buggers grind you down

  3. Will the “DWP spokesman” please change the record. Endlessly repeating nonsense doesn’t make it true!

  4. “It’s not fair to write someone off as unable to work if they are at the early stages of a progressive condition” THIS IS UTTER BULLSH*T! Who when diagnosed with an illness like MS or Parkinson’s thinks about struggling to get to work and who will employ them? Also what about the terminally ill, apart from the stress/pain of their illness, they have got to work/look for work!!!! I am ashamed of this govt and the people that have allowed them to get away with it.

  5. The morality in people is often evaluated by how they treat those who are less fortunate or disabled. In this case, the way the British government treats its people is just as bad as the way the Israelis treat Sephardic Jews (Semites) or Palestinians (Semites). It’s absolutely disgusting, and heads should roll over this tide of psychopathic, narcissistic sadism directed toward these people. It is going to get to the point where the only course for the British people, relative to their government, is to commit mass suicide, go to the next level of existence where they can have a reasonable time, and leave all the greedy sadistic bastards behind to stew in their own fetid juices.

  6. I too have a degenerative disease, which in the 12 years since the onset has gotten worse. Was on ESA in 2008, had to go for medical and was deemed fit to work. On bad days I walk with either one or two sticks,depending on my ability. But according to government assessment I was deemed fit for work as I sat in my chair for 20+ minutes,had a big handbag with me and could lift my arms up. I’ve felt suicidal at the level of pain I’m in, been for two lots of injections (6) at a time to no avail with just the knowledge that this will get worse. I know there are people who are worse off than me, but we have to stand up for ourselves and make our voices heard. I am not going to become another statistic.

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